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article imageDrowsy Driving is Major Killer on US Roads

By Nathalie Caron     Nov 2, 2007 in Health
While the dangers of drowsy driving are real, too many people continue to risk their lives and those of others by taking the wheel while sleep deprived. November 5-11 will mark US’s first annual Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates there are 100,000 sleep-related crashes a year. While drowsy driving kills more than 1,550 people a year in the United States and causes 71,000 injuries, explains a Reuters article.
The National Sleep Foundation has found that while drowsy driving is avoidable, a number of people seem uneducated about the risks and the steps necessary to avoid sleeping at the wheel. Drowsiness is almost impossible to fight without a nap or caffeinated drinks.
"A lot of people roll down the window and turn on the radio when they get tired," said Darrel Drobnich, a spokesman for the foundation. "That's like saying, if I'm hungry, if I roll down the window I won't be hungry."
According to the foundation, 60 per cent of drivers admit having driven while drowsy in the past year, while 20 per cent, or about 32 million people, confess to having actually fallen asleep at the wheel.
Few states have legislation dealing with drowsy driving. In fact, New Jersey is the only one with a law against the practice while others, including Illinois, New York, Kentucky, Mississippi and Massachusetts, are expected to propose similar legislation.
The New Jersey law, used to prosecute only one person so far, sees drivers involved in an accident after being awake for 24 hours or more liable for vehicular homicide, with a penalty of 10 years in jail and a $100,000 fine.
But the Reuters article points out the 2003 legislation did not appear to have a deterring effect so far. In 2003, there were 2,574 crashes caused by drowsy driving, according to the New Jersey Department of Transportation a figure which increased to 3,143 in 2006.
The National Sleep Foundation is hoping its awareness campaign, United States’ first annual Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, will lead legislation to pass in more states. The prevention week runs from November 5-11, 2007.
"It doesn't matter how many times you get away with it," said Rusty Burris, a 35 year-old man who was paralyzed at the age of 18 after driving after 36 hours without sleep, "it's the one time you don't. And you pay for it for the rest of your life.”
More about Drowsy driving, United States, Prevention week
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